General Gordon Square fenced off
Love behind bars: The square will be fenced off until the weekend

General Gordon Square in Woolwich will remain fenced off until the weekend after disturbances on Halloween left a teenager with stab wounds and four police officers injured.

Fences were erected in the square last week in an attempt to prevent disorder after local police reported fireworks being thrown into crowds.

But blocking off the open space did not prevent some of the worst disturbances seen in the area since the riot of 2011, with 30 arrests made on Sunday as youths threw fireworks at each other and into crowds.

While police dealt with the incident, a fight broke out which resulted in a 14-year-old boy being stabbed. The youth is in a stable condition in hospital.

The fences will now stay up until Saturday, Greenwich Council said in a statement issued this morning.

General Gordon Square fenced off
Parents have been told to keep their children away from Woolwich

Asked why the square would remain fenced off if it did not prevent serious violence, a council spokesperson told 853 that it had been acting on a request from the police.

“We closed General Gordon Square following fireworks-related disorder that took place last week,” the spokesperson said.

“This was tested last year and rolled out again at the request of the police, to help reduce the risk posed to members of the public, and to help local enforcement teams mount a targeted response quickly to areas we knew would be a concern.

“We know that the violence on Sunday evening was the actions of a few people. Four police officers were seriously injured during the affray, as well as members of the public simply trying to get home. This incident could have been a lot worse, with many more seriously injured, had preventive measures not been taken by the police and the council.

“In the coming days, we will be working closely with local schools and the police, to ensure our community is as safe as possible. This includes keeping General Gordon Square closed until after the bonfire period to minimise the risk to local residents, reopening on Saturday 6 November.

“We will evaluate our response to the firework violence – including any future closures of the square – as part of our planning for 2022.”

The 30 arrests were made for possession of a taser, being under 18 and in possession of fireworks, assault on emergency workers and affray.

Greenwich Council said that one man had a suspected heart attack after having a firework thrown at him, and fireworks continued to be thrown at him while emergency services were helping him.

Parents of children at schools across Greenwich borough were sent letters from the police yesterday warning that children present on Sunday would have been assisting in crime.

The letter said: “Even if your child was a spectator to what was going on they are responsible for creating physical cover in crimes being committed and an audience.

“I feel the community was let down by the children present and it is your responsibility as parents and guardians to make sure they do not let you and your community down again.

“If you believe your child is in the town centre any evening this week and the coming weekend can you please come down, find them, take them home and if your recognise any of their friends, offer to take them home too and/or inform their parents.”

General Gordon Square fenced off
Payphone users will have to make their calls elsewhere

Council leader Danny Thorpe said he was “shocked and appalled by the senseless violence that broke out in Woolwich caused by a minority of young people”.

He added: “There is clearly a risk of further disorder, so I am asking all families to work with us and make sure your children are kept as safe as possible.

“This kind of violence is just as serious as any knife or firearm crime. The effects of fireworks are extremely dangerous when used illegally. They can cause serious and life-changing injuries, and in some cases, death.”

The council is asking people to report illegal sales of fireworks to under-18s, or sales of professional Category 4 pyrotechnics to the general public, to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Many councils have cut their fireworks displays this year because of Covid concerns or cutbacks, with the annual Blackheath display – organised by Lewisham Council after Greenwich cut its contribution a decade ago – one of the casualties.

The three main displays in southeast London will be paid-for events – in Norman Park, Bromley on Friday; and Danson Park in Bexleyheath and Croydon Road Recreation Ground, Beckenham on Saturday.

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